Friday, July 30, 2010

A post for Pete

My Top Trumps card, taken from Cycling Podium's 6 Riders Who Blog

This post is for Pete Lockett, to keep him amused and out of trouble. Pete rescued me 2 years ago in his trusty Subaru when I came off my bike training one morning before work and broke my collarbone. It had been a rough morning. My training mate Jacqui and I had gotten up way too early in the Melbourne winter, and had braved the cold out to do our regular morning session on Kew Boulevard. 10 minutes into our ride we saw a dead cyclist. The ambulance guys told us that he had had heart failure while riding, and it was a fair shock to see the poor guy, still in his kit, on the side of the road.

The emminently sensible Jacqui decided that that was enough for one morning and headed home, while I decided to keep going. Half an hour later I hit something on the road, went over the handlebars and that was it. Andy was up in north-east Victoria at the time, so I called Jacqui to drive me to hospital. Jacqui's car was at the mechanic's, so it was Pete to the rescue. Those guys were amazing. They drove me to the hospital, told me jokes while I was in triage, nursed me through my morphine-induced haze and then drove me an hour away to Monash to get surgery. And they never once complained that I had made them late for work.

So it's fair to say that I owe Pete one. I owe him and Jacqui especially for fast-talking their way into securing me Melbourne's best shoulder surgeon, but that's another story. So when Pete sent a text reminding me that it had been a while between blog posts, I thought this might cheer him up.

Onto today's blog. The highlight of my day today, without doubt, was discovering that I have made a Top Trumps card. For those of you who do not live in the UK, just be assured that not only is this hilarious, this is A Great And Special Honour. Podium Cafe did a special 4 part series entitled 'Women's Cycling Top Trumps'. Each of the parts profiled 5 or 6 riders and put each of them on a mock trading card (this is the Top Trumps bit). I got a guernsey for their Riders Who Blog section. Check out their other parts, The Sprinty TypesNational Champions, and their Best Of... section.

A big high-five to 'Pigeons' who posted the article. Pigeons, today you made the 2 years I spent as an overworked trainee lawyer in the UK all worthwhile, because it meant that now I know what a Top Trumps card is, and you gave me a great laugh today. I am also impressed by your extensive knowledge of my background and I shall view my neighbours with more suspicion now. I am not sure if you are in cahoots with the crazy Greek guy who lives in the block next door and peers at me through his curtains, but if you do can you get me some baklava?

Ride happy

Monday, July 19, 2010

I am wearing streamers at Nationals

I received this communique on Saturday:


Lisa Jacobs (#126) and Emma Mackie (#127) from Australia have been fined 100 Euro, 1x case of beer and the hummilation of starting the 2011 Road Race National Title with streamers attached to their bicycles.

This fine has occurred due to the actions of Kirsty Broun, Amanda Spratt and Carly Light..., who easily inhaled one balun pizza at Della Monte Pizza resturant on the evening of July 16. Photographic evidence was obtained and will be sent shortly. Along with the photos of the rich chocolate, pear and pistacchio birthday cake that was then eaten upon return to Castronno.

Sorry to inform you of this news,

Chief Commisaires; Carlee Taylor, Lauren Kitchen and Shara Gillow 

I think the photos say it all. The girls definitely earned their win- RESPEKT! And, just to rub it in, they followed it up with cake afterwards! Impressif.

As well as the Ballun pictures, I also found some other pictures of the girls, taken post-Ballun Challenge:
I'll see you at nationals. At least, you'll see me, and Mackie...

Eat happy

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Wager

The Great Ballun Pizza Challenge of 2010

I've just arrived back in Melbourne, and I am due back at work tomorrow. I've got Donna's permission to lie low for a few weeks, and the only exercise I plan to do this weekend is some cross-country skiing up at Lake Mountain in Vic. I'll write a Euro wrap-up soon, but for the moment I'm looking forward to having a complete break from the bike.

I could not, however, let this week go past without a mention of The Wager. The night before I left for Australia, all the girls went out for pizza at Della Monte restaurant in Varese, to celebrate the end of the Giro. Della Monte is famous for its 'Ballun' pizzas (see above), and I have attempted 3 times now to finish one off. That night marked my 3rd attempt. I had been confident, after 10 days of racing the Giro, that a Ballun would be no match for me. I may or may not have expressed this confidence to the other girls. I was wrong.

The girls did not let this failure go unnoticed. In fact, I think the whole restaurant heard all about it. To cut a long story short, a gauntlet was thrown down and The Great Ballun Challenge of 2010 was born.

The challenge is thus:
  • Madames Kirsty Broun, Amanda Spratt and Carly Light will attend Della Monte Pizza Restaurant at some date before the end of July 2010 (This date has been set as Sunday July 18);
  • Each will order and receive one Ballun pizza;
  • Each must consume said Ballun wholly, without interference or assistance from each other or any third party. There is no time limit for eating;
  • If all 3 girls successfully finish their Ballun, they will receive, from Emma Mackie and myself
    • 1x case of beer
    • 100 euro
    • and will have the pleasure of seeing Mackie and I ride the 2011 road nationals with streamers attached to our handlebars.
  • If K.Bru, Spratty and Barky fail to complete their Balluns, it's reversed - i.e Mackie and I get 100E + a case of beer, and they have to put streamers on their bikes at nationals.
The trash-talking has started, and both teams are confident of winning. I have to say, I thought we were pretty safe until I saw that crazy look in Spratty's eyes. Now I'm not so sure. Either way, I'm disappointed to be missing the action - although I'm confident Chief Commissaires Carlee Taylor, Lauren Kitchen and Shara Gillow will oversee proceedings in our absence. It's not about the money, it's not about the beer, it's not even about the pizza... it's all about the streamers.

Stay tuned for results... or just rock up to Buninyong in January and see who's wearing the streamers.

Ride happy

Monday, July 12, 2010

Giro Donne - what really happened in stage 10

So I have just seen the stage report from yesterday's stage 10. It was so hilarious I had to share it. Check out this report from CJ Farquharson ( who was one of the moto photographers following the race. CJ's Italian is much better than mine and she managed to work out what the circus was all about:

What was expected to be a procession, turned out to be a race of immense activity and attacks. A number of teams wanted to win the final stage and launched attack after attack to try to break up the race and gain an advantage. Evelyn Stevens (HTC Columbia) was the most successful of the breaks. Stevens gained almost one minute advantage before being pulled back in. It was as the race started the last 10km that it got really interesting. The roundabout just before the 10km to go sign was incorrectly marked and sent the leading Police, cars and eventually the whole peloton ahead instead of left. While the race headed towards a housing estate and dead end, Lisa Jacobs (Australia) and Lusia Tamaini (ASC Chirio Forna D' Asolo) who had dropped back to get support from their team cars, correctly turned left and headed fore the finish.
There was a complete panic from the police and organisers to get the race back on track and the two lone riders were stopped before they could reach the finish. They were held and waited for the leading group to go by before joining the back of the peloton.

And this:

Photo courtesy

The peloton detoured from the parcours with around 10 km to go. Lisa Jacobs (Australia) and Irene Falorni (Vaiono) were behind the main group when they took the wrong turn and became the leaders on the road. With spirit of fair play, the pair stopped and took their rightful position despite technically being permitted to continue.

We've all had a good laugh here imagining the scene if the police had let us ride on. We were a good 10 minutes ahead of the bunch and even pedalling squares we probably would have won had we kept riding.
CJ is also being very generous in her report - she is right that we would have waited anyway, but I have to admit I had no idea what was going on at the time. But Macca, look, I got in a breakaway!

Giro Donne - well, we knocked the bastard off

The team at Livigno, smiling because we hadn't yet seen the 42 switchbacks to Stelvio

The Giro is over and crikey, we are wiped out. I have never been this written off, ever. We are now back at the team base and contemplating big issues like how many gelatis we could put away this evening.

Stage 10 today was on like Donkey Kong. 112km of very fast action and my legs just didn't work. I knew what I needed to do - it was be on the front and cover moves - but I just couldn't get up. Couldn't. The 5% gradients turned into bergs of Baw-Baw like proportions. How do these girls do this? I got dropped with 30km to go, then hitched a lift from a sympathetic policeman on a motorbike (for future reference, the flashing police lights that stick out on the back of the moto do not withstand the force of a desperate cyclist hanging on at 50kph), then stuck with an Italian rider in a similar predicament. Suddenly, we reached a police roadblock and were flagged down. Lots of Italian shouting and gesticulating. The word 'casino' was bandied around. Circus. What the? We were told to wait. I had no idea what was going on, but we were assured by the policeman that the race organisers had stopped the clock, and the bunch would be coming past in 10 minutes. We were to wait for them and then join back into the bunch. What the...?

As it turned out, the bunch had been inadvertently sent down a dead-end street and was made to wait for 10 minutes while the organisers sorted out where they were supposed to be going. They u-bolted, then came back past our way. Casino indeed. I didn't know this - I was busy wondering whether I would be allowed to finish, or whether my Giro had just ended, unglamorously, outside a petrol station somewhere near Monza. But I tacked on all the same, and then promptly got dropped again with 3km to go. But I got to finish.

So I've finished the Giro and in 2 days I fly back to Melbourne. In 3 days I will be back in my corporate suit, sitting in the office and contemplating Risk & Compliance issues for Australian lawyers. In 5 days I will see Andy again. No prizes for guessing which I am looking forward to most.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Giro Donne- stage 9

Stage 9, up Stelvio, I had nothing. No legs, no energy, and rapidly no will to live. The pace was on early and there were 2 significant climbs before we hit Stelvio.

There is something calming about having absolutely nothing left. It's not about position, it's not about missing opportunities, it's not about not eating or drinking enough. There just comes a point where your body has hit its limit.

I was disappointed that my limit came before Stelvio, so that I couldn't really see what climbing it at max effort was like. But climbing it in grupetto was pretty boring.

Stelvio is quite spectacular- 42 switchbacks over 23km or so. You pass the treeline, then you pass the cowline (a few hundred metres above the treeline), then you pass the snowline. At almost 2800m above sea level it's the highest pass in Italy.

Today is the final stage- some circuits of the Monza F1 racing circuit in Milano followed by a jaunt around Milano itself. 112km in all.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Giro Donne- Stage 8

Day 8 of the Giro and what we are losing in energy, we are gaining in altitude. Today's stage wound through Switzerland, past St Moritz and finished in Livigno. The last time I came through these parts was when I did a ski marathon 3 years ago. It was awesome to come back in the Summer, and even better to think that way back when I last came here, I would never have predicted that I would be here 3 years later, riding for Australia in the Giro d'Italia.

Today's stage was 90km of almost pure climbing. My day started well and on the first climb I was in the lead group of ~30 with Shara and Tiff. After yesterday I was keen to have a good stage and my legs felt good. Unfortunately, Tiff's legs weren't feeling the same way and I was called back to help her. I was more than happy to- that's what teammates are for!- but it effectively meant my day was over. On the plus side, it did mean I could enjoy the beautiful scenery a bit more!

I particularly liked seeing the Swiss cows along the route, tinkling the bells around their necks whenever they moved. I figure those cows have a pretty good life, living in the Alps with those views. But I'm glad I'm not a Swiss cow, because I would sure get sick of the constant ringing in my ears. And I'd probably have to learn German.

Tomorrow is the last mountain stage- a summit finish up the Stelvio. At almost 3000m it's going to be one big day in the saddle.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Giro Donne - stage 7

The view from our hotel

Today was the first of the grand mountain stages in the Giro, which made it an inopportune day for me to have no legs. But that's bike racing. The stage started in Como and hit a 12km climb early before descending, winding around Lake Como, climbing up the second mountain (Ghisello, home of the Madonna del Ghisello which I wrote about before) and heading to the finish. Because the first 15km leading into the first climb were narrow and quite hilly too, it was on like Donkey Kong from the start. USA got to the front and drove it, and no matter how much I screamed at my legs, they just didn't behave and I ended up in a piano group of 5. Some parts of it were quite cool, like when the ambulance drove up to our group on the climb and gave us some ice cold water and a can of coke. Problem was, there was only 1 bottle of water and 1can of coke, so we were passing it around from rider to rider, each savouring a couple of mouthfuls. I had just assumed I would miss out, until Bronzini (ex world champ on the track) passed me the can and immediately became my favourite person in the world. Happiness is a can of coke on a mountain climb in the summer.

Also in my group was a lady from Fenix who kept going to the front and driving it. I have no idea why. Our day was clearly over, but she just kept wanting to bridge the 15 minute gap to the leaders. I asked her whether she spoke English, so I could find out what she was thinking, but she said no. I assumed she was a hack who had no idea how to ride piano. Later I found out she was a former world champion on the road, which may have explained those little rainbow loops on her kit. And she was Russian, which may have explained the rest.

Shara, Tiff and Carlee all had good days, hurrah! Tomorrow we ride to Livigno, which means around 90km of almost pure climbing. And with that, I am off to bed.

Ride happy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Giro Donne- stage 6

Today's stage was special for the Aussies because it went through Castronno, the home town of the AIS cycling base. For a few brief exciting moments we thought the intermediate sprint fell right outside the house, but it turned out that it didn't. Even so, though, it was very cool to race through our training roads and to hear some familiar voices on the side of the road cheering (thanks to Elsa, Dave and the junior men's Aussie team who lined the road!).

The route was 116km through some fairly hilly territory, starting in Gallarate and finishing in Arcisate. Lauren Kitchen made the EB (Early Break) her own, winning the intermediate sprint and pushing out the gap to over 2mins for over 60km. If she keeps this up she's going to have to copyright that move- 2 days in a row now.

The Aussies did well, with 4 of us finishing in the top bunch of 25- Carlee Taylor, Shara Gillow, Tiffany Cromwell and myself. The group contained all the GC hopefuls so it was good for so many of the team to be in it, esp Shara, Carlee and Tiff who are all now top 20 on GC leading into the mtns.

I was happy to have a better day on the bike than yesterday. It was also good to be there to help our GC riders on the final circuit around Arcisate. Those girls have looked after me a lot on the road and it's good to feel I can give something back.

Tomorrow we hit the first of 3 mountain stages, around Lake Como. Stage 8 takes us up to Livigno (last time I visited Livigno I had skis on), then stage 9 goes up the infamous Stelvio pass.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Giro Donne - stage 5

Photo courtesy of CJ Farquharson @
Today's stage was a 122km jaunt around Lake Orta, which is definitely one of the most beautiful places I've ridden around. I'd love to go back one day when I am not sweating spinal fluid or sucking in the big ones in between mouthfuls of gel. Which is what happened today. The stage was our first foray into hilly territory, and all the hill climbers and GC riders in the bunch were itching to stretch their legs after 4 days of flat stages.

I sucked today. I say that modestly. To borrow a term I learned while I was over here, I blew like a porn star. After being dropped from the lead bunch, my day was over when the group I was in called 'piano' (Italian for 'go slow'), which basically means the group has declared their racing for the day to be over and soft pedals to the finish, way behind the lead group. Rookies like me do not call piano. This honour is generally given to the more senior members of the group, which in my case was an elderly looking Italian rider who then chose to yell at me for daring to ride next to her up the final climb to the finish. 'You're stupid,' she told me. I wanted to reply that I wasn't stupid, that stupid was doing this for a living when you're 35, but we have 5 days of racing still to go and I didn't want to make enemies. Particularly not enemies of people like her who had clearly been around a while and probably had mafia cronies waiting in the wings. Instead, I asked her whether she was afraid. My teammate Emma Mackie and I spent the rest of the stage comparing which one of us was cramping up more (OH_THE_PAIN) and then, just before the finish line, Em grabbed the cranky Italian and pushed her over the line first ahead of us, so that she would get her wish of not being passed on the final climb. I hadn't laughed so much all day. Em is a star.

Tiff, Shara and Carlee all did well today. Lauren went on a solo break at the start and blew the gap out to over a minute at one point. Vai Australia!

Stage 3 ITT photo courtesy of CJ Farquharson @

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post a couple of things from stages 3 + 4. First, our TT skinsuits (as seen above at the TT start). These are new high-tech additions to the Cycling Australia armoury. We used the same suits as they use for the track team, and they are so tight you actually need a helper to help get them on. When I put mine on (or, to be more accurate, when Beth levered me into it), I couldn't actually stand upright because it was so tight (or 'aero', as we like to call it). Apparently this is a good thing - when you are on the bike you are hunched over, so to minimise drag the suit needs to be skintight in that position. Oh boy. I have huge empathy for all those ladies in Victorian England who endured corsets for all those years in the name of beauty. I now know how you feel.

Post stage 4 doping control. Photo courtesy of CJ Farquharson @

The othe thing I forgot to mention was that the highlight of yesterday's stage 4 was the protest at the start by the local worker's union. A local factory had closed down and the union decided the best way to get media attention was to protest on our start line. Our start was delayed by 30 mins, which was hot and annoying but quite entertaining (once we worked out what was going on) and gave us a chance to hide Emma Pooley's race bike while she went to the toilet. Hehehe.

There are some more CJ Farquharson pics at - check them out.  Or see for pics of the rest of the race.

Ride Happy

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Giro Donne- stages 3+4

Almost halfway through!

Stage 3 yesterday was a 16.9km TT on a pancake flat course. I always look forward to time trials about as much as I used to look forward to exams at uni. At uni I had what I used to call my 'cleaning lady' moment, which would generally occur as I left home for the exam hall. I'd look at the cleaning ladies working away in the college grounds and wish I were one of them. They never had exams. Life was good for a cleaning lady in November. Whenever I came back from my exam, though, I'd see the same ladies, toiling away to clean up the filth left by 300 20-year-olds, and think, man, I'm so glad I'm not a cleaning lady.

Now that I don't have exams to do, I tend to have my cleaning lady moments before time trials. Yesterday was no exception. People call time trials the 'race of truth' but I reckon it's just time triallers who like to say that. The rest of us just suffer and try not to get too much spit on the handlebars.

I was happy with my TT, the more so because it was such a flat course, which suited me about as much as budgie smugglers suit Tony Abbott. I was 28th (out of 156 Giro starters), and given we are riding with so many of the world's best, I am stoked. Tiff Cromwell and Shara Gillow smoked it in at 22nd and 23rd respectively, which puts them in good GC position and bodes well for the team leading into the mountain stages (both Tiff and Shara eat hard mtn climbs for breakfast).

Ina Teutenberg won - again. That girl is a certified freakshow.

Stage 4 today was 94km of sprinters' delight (flat), ending in a bunch kick. After the stage I had the privilege of being drug tested, which I took as a great compliment.

Tomorrow the tour starts hitting some hills- it's playtime!

If you have any good luck left in your kitties, please send them to Sharon Laws, TE's other peleton representative in the Giro. Sharon broke her collarbone in stage 2's epic pile up. Hopefully this will mark the end of her bad luck run and tour des hospitals. Get well soon mate.

Ride happy

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Giro Donne - Stages 1 & 2

Raring to go!

We have just finished stage 2 of the Giro and WOW. Today, especially, was epic (but more on that later).

Stage 1 was 58km from Trieste to somewhere 58km away (ok, so I could check the race book, but before you start calling me lazy, why don't you look it up on the race website? THERE. Not so important now, is it?). Trieste is right next to the Slovenian border so the race hotel was actually in Slovenia. This caused a few problems in that no one in the team knew how to say 'thank you' in Slovenian. In the end we just said 'Get a dog up ya!' with a smile and no one seemed to mind.

The course comprised 4 laps of a circuit around Trieste and the Pasta Zara factory, then a short transition to the finish town where we did another 3 laps of the finishing circuit. It was pretty flat and came down to a bunch sprint, won by Ina Yoko Teutenberg of HTC Columbia. Kirsty Broun, our star sprinter, was first Aussie at 11th. The first stage of any tour is always dicey - everyone is nervous, GC hasn't settled, people are twitchy - and the finishing circuit yesterday was diabolical. Crashes, near misses, hairpin bends and, for Vicki Whitelaw, a missing front wheel around 400m from the finish. As I passed Vicki she was picking herself off the road and retrieving her wheel. Characteristically tough, when we ran into her the next day she just said, 'Yeah, it's the first time I've lost a wheel... literally. Guess they ARE quick release!' Man, I've said it before but bike riders are TOUGH.

My race yesterday was a bit frustrating. I had good position going into the finishing circuit, but couldn't hold it and when the hammer went down with 2 laps to go I was caught too far back and copped all the whiplash from the crashes and near misses. I needed to be at the front to support Kirsty going into the final sprint but just couldn't get up. It's these sorts of situations that really show how much of a difference experience makes in the peleton. I guess that is what I am here for, but it is frustrating all the same.

Today's 2nd stage was 130km, the longest stage of the tour. Today was an eventful day for the Aussies. It came down to a bunch sprint and 500m from the finish there was a massive pile-up, involving most of the sprinters and their lead-outs. Kirsty was in an awesome position and had Emma Mackie and Tiff Cromwell looking after her, and they all hit the deck. They are OK - no broken bones, but will be pretty sore and sorry tomorrow. I haven't heard about the rest of the casualties from other teams yet. Then, to make matters worse, our soigneur Beth was involved in a car accident on the way to race finish and ended up in hospital. She is back at the hotel and also OK, although we suspect the car is a write-off. So it was a subdued team this arvo - hopefully we have gotten all our bad luck out of the way in one hit.

Not much else to report - the temperatures have been HOT - 37deg today - which has made hydration a challenge but nothing a bunch of hardened Aussies can't handle. The food has been good so far - although I am told after 10 days the novelty of having pasta 3 meals a day will wear off. Speaking of which, I had better go, because it's dinner time. I started cramping up today towards the end in the heat, which means tonight I have a golden excuse to eat even more salt! Mmmmm.

Tomorrow is the TT. Nico, our mechanic, has decked us out in some awesome TT rigs, I am EXCITED!

Ride Happy

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Giro Donne!

Tomorrow marks the start of the Giro d'Italia Donne, the women's version of the tour of Italy. This year it is being talked up as the hardest women's tour in the world for 2010. Looking at the course profile, I can see why... A mountain-top finish on the Stelvio, the day after a stage finish in Livigno (a town so high up in the mountains that it has duty-free shopping, no kidding)... And more.

The Giro runs for 10 stages, over 10 days. No rest day (they are for wimps and men). Team Australia comprises Emma Mackie, Tiff Cromwell, Shara Gillow, Kirsty Broun, Lauren Kitchen, Carlee Taylor and myself.

I'll do my best to keep you posted.